Cherryleaf’s technical author basic/induction training course has been accredited by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators since its launch. This accreditation has to be renewed every few years, which involves having the course is re-assessed by the ISTC’s accreditors. Earlier this year, we submitted the course for renewed accreditation, and we’ve recently received an email informing us the course has been approved again by the ISTC.
There are user documentation projects where we are asked to write in American English instead of British English, and generally this is a pretty straightforward exercise for us. However, when I speak at conferences in the USA, delegates sometimes ask me afterwards what I meant by a particular expression. For example, I was recently asked what I meant by “round the houses” and “cheesed off“.
There are a large number of subtle differences between the two versions of English, which has led to a number of very interesting blogs on this subject. In particular, Dr. Lynne Murphy’s Separated by a common language and Professor Ben Yagoda’s Not One-Off Britishisms blogs provide a fascinating insight into how words and expressions gain popularity. The Language Log is another blog worth reading.
If the move to a more conversational approach to technical writing grows in popularity, we may see these differences becoming a bigger factor in localis(z)ing to American or British English.
Following on from our post The Internet of Things – creating a user guide for a fridge door, we came across other ways to create e-ink digital user guides that could be attached to the door of meeting rooms, providing information on room bookings, using the equipment in the room etc.
The Language of Technical Communication book is a collaborative effort with fifty-two contributors defining the terms that form the core of technical communication as it is practiced today. Cherryleaf’s Ellis Pratt was one of the contributors.
Each contributed term has a concise definition, an importance statement, and an essay that describes why technical communicators need to know that term.
Microsoft has announced the preview release of its documentation service, https://docs.microsoft.com, which currently provides content for its Enterprise Mobility products.
“We interviewed and surveyed hundreds of developers and IT Pros and sifted through your website feedback over the years on UserVoice. It was clear we needed to make a change and create a modern web experience for content…For years customers have told us to go beyond walls of text with feature-level content and help them implement solutions to their business problems.” (source)
The key features are:
- Improved readability
- “To improve content readability, we changed the site to have a set content width.”
- “We’ve also increased the font size for the left navigation and the text itself.”
- Including an estimated reading time
- Adding a publication date
- Improved navigation
- It is now based around sections on evaluating, getting started, planning, deploying, managing and troubleshooting
- Shortened article length per page
- Responsive Web Design
- Community contributions
- “Every article has an Edit button that takes you to the source Markdown file in GitHub, where you can easily submit a pull request to fix or improve content.”
- Feedback mechanisms
- To provide comments and annotations on all of the articles
- Friendly URLs
- Website theming
- You can change between a light and dark theme
Wow – this matches closely with the topics we cover in our Advanced technical writing & new trends in technical communication training course, where we look at the changes made by other organisations.
Although it doesn’t mention it in its announcement, Microsoft has also made changes to the style of its topic headings and content. There’s frequent use of words and phrases such as “protect”, “discover” and “understand and explore”.
We’ve yet to look at the site in detail, but initial impressions are very positive.
What do you think?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is, according to Wikipedia, the network of physical objects – devices, vehicles, buildings and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The popular example is the concept of a smart fridge that could warn you when it was out of milk.
Yesterday, we spotted a tweet mentioning SeeNote, a digital version of the sticky notes people use around the house and office.
This eink display is exactly what i want: https://t.co/C6xQ8R9U6t
Excited to get one! pic.twitter.com/6VC7FKP1J9
— harper (@harper) April 26, 2016
This got us wondering if it were possible to create a digital user guide that could be:
- Stuck on the wall (or the fridge door)
- Have a screen that was always on
- Automatically update itself
- Notify you when there was new information
- Run without mains power for approximately a month between charges.
The SeeNote is a little too small for that purpose, so could another e-ink device, such as an ebook reader, be configured to work in this way?
Last week, I spoke at, and attended, Madworld 2016, the conference hosted by MadCap Software for its users. It’s the most rewarding and enjoyable of all the conferences on technical communication that I attend. Here is a summary of what I saw and heard on the first day.
Yesterday, I wrote:
“There are some activities that seem like they always could be improved. One is creating an authoring environment where professional technical communicators and other staff can work together.”
Writing online Help is different from writing some other types of content, in that it involves topic-based authoring. Content is stored in modular, re-usable and flexible chunks of information. By moving away from a page-centric, document model, you’re able to organise and present published information in many different ways. However, it’s a different approach to what many non-professional Technical Authors are used to. Unfamiliarity with this content model, as well as the tools, can make collaboration difficult.